Call for spyware on kids' phones

By Anita Moran of the Daily Post -
Hayley-Ann Fenton, 15, took her own life after her "first love" broke up with her. Photo / supplied
Hayley-Ann Fenton, 15, took her own life after her "first love" broke up with her. Photo / supplied

Spy software could be installed on all New Zealand cell phones for $200,000, a coroner has heard during the inquest into the death of a Rotorua teenager who killed herself after getting threatening text messages.

The inquest into the death of Hayley-Ann Fenton has continued at the Rotorua Coroner's Court with evidence being heard from a company which provides spy software for cell phones.

Hayley-Ann, 15, took her own life after her "first love", 27-year-old Pelesasa Tiumalu, broke up with her. She killed herself shortly after receiving a text message she thought was from Tiumalu, telling her "Go Kill yourself, I don't care".

Tiumalu's wife, Elina, 21, had, in fact, been intercepting Hayley-Ann's suicidal text messages and replying with abuse.

A year after her death, Tiumalu was charged with having a sexual relationship with the underage teen and pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual connection. He was jailed for four years and three months. His wife was earlier given a nine-month suspended sentence for intimidating Hayley-Ann.

An inquest into Hayley-Ann's death was heard before Coroner Wallace Bain in December and more evidence was given on Thursday last week.

MyFone spokeswoman Sally Rae gave evidence at the inquest stating that if New Zealand telecommunications companies got behind the initiative, spy software could be available on all New Zealand cell phones for $200,000.

MyFone was launched in New Zealand last year by Ms Rae and her business partner, Steve Herstell. They created the business after becoming concerned about bad cyberspace behaviour. The business operates through a website that allows parents to sign up their child's cellphone number and then see any calls or texts made to and from the phone.

The site also provides a tracking service so parents can find out where their child is.

The audio is not recorded but the time, duration and the number dialled are.

The time, date and content of text messages are also available for parents to see.

If phones are internet capable, parents can also see what websites their child has visited.

The site also provides an ability to block certain numbers from a child's cell phone.

Ms Rae said the software was designed to be obvious to the child and they would know their phone was being monitored.

During the inquest, Hayley-Ann's mother read out a statement asking for a law change so people would become accountable for text bullying behaviour.

During the inquest in December, Netsafe operations manager Olivia Chisholm explained telecommunications companies had software which would allow text and picture messages to be blocked but only Vodafone offered a "blacklisting" service.

Dr Bain said the Privacy Act was under review but the act didn't govern family relationships. "I am of the view that the younger they are, they should be monitored."

Dr Bain listed several laws, acts and criminal charges which dealt with some of the behaviours shown by those who texted Hayley-Ann including threatening to do an act, blackmail, harassment and inciting others to commit an offence.

He said the issue was whether the current laws were capable of dealing with the "explosion" of offences caused by social media.

Dr Bain said 20 per cent of all bullying was done through texting.

"I want to see if there should be a specific law to deal with these issues," he said.

"Another issue I am looking at is if Hayley really intended to take her own life or if it was a call for help."

Dr Bain said he was "staggered by the mere cost of $200,000" the spy software could be on every cellphone.

He said his findings on the case would be released after thorough research, which could take a couple of months.

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